Although this is my blog, and theoretically I can write about whatever I choose, I usually try to avoid writing about topics that are segregating, or might make my readers hate me; politics, for example. I do not consider myself an expert – hardly – on this topic. Shoot, anyone who knows me will tell you that 95% of everything I know about government comes from my obsessive love of The West Wing.
In the past six months or so, I have followed the debate on health care reform closely, considering it as much an education in the process of American legislation as in the health care system itself. I have been blessed to be the recipient of a fabulous health care package my entire life, and never thought twice about my bi-annual dental appointments, annual optical exams, check-ups, physicals, labs, diagnostic tests, and medications, ranging from preventative fluoride tablets for my teeth as a little girl to ER tests for mononucleosis as a sophomore in college. I could not have told you what pre-existing conditions, capitation, employer mandates, cherry-picking, or a public option were. I never gave two thoughts to health care. I simply showed up for my appointment, held out my little insurance card, and went about my merry way. I just knew that when I was sick, I was taken care of.
Because I knew next to nothing about health care, I followed the trajectory of this legislation more closely than I would have an issue that I knew more about. Every article I read required me to Google some other process. Erm, reconciliation? Is there a School House Rock on that? I read as much as I had time to read: AP articles, editorials, op-eds, transcripts of news conferences, reader comments on the online articles. And the more I read, the more involved I became in the community, and the more I saw with my own eyes – the more I became annoyed, disappointed, and ultimately disgusted with my own government.
How can I live in a country that sought to deny basic health care to its own citizens? How can I live in a country where politicians cast votes based on their chances of getting re-elected, while children are abused, neglected and abandoned? How can I live in a country where an attempt to love and protect thy neighbor leads to accusations of “Socialism”? How can I live in a country where the those who claim to value human life continue to engage in violent warfare on distant lands? How can I live in a country where people fight to protect babies until they are born, and then those very babies are thrown into a world where they can be denied loving families, access to health care and education, and, if they happen to be gay, basic civil liberties? Where banking executives received $1 million bonuses in a year when millions of Americans lost their jobs? Where women’s reproductive rights are decided by male politicians’ religious views? Where racism still runs rampant and women still make 75.3 cents to the man’s dollar? Where a single mother with two children can make more money by cashing a welfare check than by securing a job with benefits?
How can I live in a country where divisive politicians spend more time driving wedges, hindering progress, name-calling, and threatening each other than actually listening to their constituents, or each other? Where our leaders on both sides of the aisle, whom should be held to the highest standard, preach about family values then carry out affairs at the tax-payer’s expense? Where it turns out that corporations who fund political campaigns have more influence on those who govern than those whom they represent? Where private organizations struggle to create systemic change in education, health care, and environmental protection because the government hasn’t gotten around to it?
I would like to have more faith in our government than. I really would. After all, this country put a man on the moon. This country invented chemotherapy, radio carbon dating, and the Internet. We invented the swivel chair and dental floss, gosh darn it! This country wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Walden, The Grapes of Wrath and Slaughterhouse-5. This country produced John F. Kennedy and Clara Barton, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, Jr. Not to mention, the countless public servants and philanthropists alike who have spent their lives working to make things better. I know that.
But lately I look around and feel that there is a sense of humanity that is missing.
I hear people say, I don’t want to pay for someone else’s health care. They say, I don’t want to pay for someone else’s child to be educated. I don’t want to pay. But what they don’t understand is, they are already paying. They are paying every time a child falls behind grade level, every time our prisons admit another inmate, every time an unwed mother cashes a welfare check, every time that uninsured homeless man on the corner has to go to the hospital for hypothermia.
And you know what? Sometimes you do pay. You do it because it is right. And as any child who has read Harry Potter could tell you, what is right is not always what is easy. Or cheap. But you do it because it is for the good of humanity, for the good of something bigger than yourself, bigger than your party. And that is the lesson that I feel some of our politicians up in Washington may have forgotten.
Just something to think about.